As consumers, one of our favorite pastimes is to complain that everything is a rip-off nowadays, and that nobody has any original ideas. Movies, music, and books are all the same things, time and again. We condemn the powers-that-be for allowing creative, innovative, and forward-thinking artists to wander helplessly in the dark, while Katy Perry’s latest bit of bubblegum tops the charts, and Michael Bay Blows Up The World Part 97 plays on six screens in every theater on Earth.
Every last one of these complaints conveniently ignores four excruciatingly important factoids:
1. All those industries exist to make money, and if they happen to start a cultural revolution at the same time, then so be it.
2. A ridiculously large chunk of the money they make comes from sequels, prequels, remakes, copycats, soundalikes, and blatant idea theft.
3. All that money comes from consumers, like you and me.
4. Shut up.
The simple, sad fact is, we as a culture enjoy new ideas far less than we say we do. Or at the very least, we hate paying for them. After all, what if we don’t like it? Some progressive funk-metal jazz band releases an album where the lyrics alternate between Latin and English, and no song has anything resembling a traditional 4/4 rhythm, and we pass because it might mean $10 down the drain. But AC/DC puts out yet another series of rock-and-roll songs about rock-and-roll and hot women who like rock-and-roll? Here, take our millions of dollars, you strange-looking Australian creeps you.
For the latest proof that, when given the choice between something new or something we’ve seen a batrillion times, we almost always embrace the latter, look no further than the Kickstarter for Mighty #9. This is a brand new video game, set for a Spring 2015 release, from Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man. Clearly, the public wants this game, with over 67,000 people having donated more than FOUR MILLION DOLLARS. That’s an average of just under $60 a pop, or how much it would cost these people to go to Gamestop and buy a game that currently exists.
In the game, you portray a heroic robot warrior, clad in adorable armor and wielding a plasma-shooting arm cannon. You must travel from one side of the screen to the other, fighting eight evil robots of varying difficulty, all wielding special powers that you can steal and use against other robots. Once all of the robots are beaten, you confront and defeat the evil mastermind behind all the chaos, and restore peace to all the land. So maybe “brand new” isn’t the correct term here.
Mighty #9 does promise some “new” features, much like how Fast And Furious 5 could be considered different from the first four because The Rock was in it. For starters, Beck (that’s the hero’s name, meaning Inafune not only ripped off himself, but also a famous rock star) can steal weapons from ALL enemies, and not just the bosses. He can also change shapes and, as far as we know, does not own a robot dog.
So…that’s novel, right? Stinky ol’ Mega Man couldn’t do Kirby-style weapon theft from random foes. Of course, the final product may not actually HAVE these amazing innovations, as they’re currently just ideas on paper. But even if these plans ultimately get abandoned, it’s the thought that counts, much like when Grandma promises you an iPad for Christmas, but ultimately settled on underwear. At least she considered investing in something cool for a little while.
What’s truly amazing isn’t just that this is a blatant hack-job; it’s how open Inafune is about it. He claims that Capcom isn’t doing Mega Man justice anymore, which makes sense; after 11 trajillion sequels, concepts do tend to get a little stale. But instead of using his fame, and knowledge of video game goodness, to create a brand new idea that we can love forever, he simply aped his most famous creation, added a couple little tweaks, changed the hero’s name, and then begged for money which we have given to him oh so happily.
But it’s OK, because Inafune isn’t being lazy, he’s paying homage! That’s his take, anyway. Since Capcom is hurting the Mega Man legacy so badly, Inafune is taking it upon himself to give his creation a proper, loving tribute, which sounds a whole lot nicer and friendlier than “selling brutal self-plagiarism for upwards of $10,000.” I didn’t pull that number out of my ass, by the way; the Kickstarter offers dinner with Inafune, plus a signed photo, a book, a plushie, and a T-shirt (oh yeah, and the game) for $10,000. All in all, four people have forked over that much, which is four more than should be allowed by a just and loving God.
THIS, far moreso than lazy writers or a dearth of creative thinking, is why mainstream entertainment regurgitates the same stuff time and again. Because we love it. We can’t get enough of it. We may claim we don’t, but our bank statements and viewing habits say otherwise. People may hate on a show for being derivative, hackneyed, and nothing but lame setups for lame jokes delivered with all the subtlety of a pissed-off gorilla, but those are the shows that reach 9 million homes. People are watching, and people are enjoying.
In an article like this one, this is usually the part where the author tells you how to make the problem go away better. But I think you already know. Instead of demanding the entertainment world create new stuff — because trust me, it’s out there — open up your wallet and pay for the new stuff. And just as importantly, don’t fork over dozens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars for yet another retread of the old stuff. All you’re doing is telling the people in charge that you crave the past, and are willing to drown them in money for a whole bunch more of it.
You like Mega Man? Then by all means, play Mega Man. But remember, he’s from the future; perhaps you should be too.
Jason has plenty of experience with uninspired, unoriginal videogames, such as when some company put out a Tomb Raider DVD Game. He also bagged on a bunch of games based on pre-existing products, that only served to make the product look worse than usual.